Bishop Joseph Ha at Mass for Tiananmen: 'People before government; truth before interests"
At Mass in memory of those killed in Tiananmen, Msgr. Joseph Ha, auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, prayed "that they may find eternal peace in the afterlife, for justice to be done". Hong Kong has had many "June 4ths". Loving God and one's neighbor means that "the value of man is far more important than any other institutional value: the people before the government; the truth before interests". "Could this be the last commemoration mass in memory of June 4th? I do not know".
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Among the moments scheduled to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre (June 4, 1989), in addition to the vigil in Victoria Park, there were masses in memory of the killed. The auxiliary bishop Msgr. Joseph Ha Chi-shing presided over a celebration in the Holy Cross church. Thousands of faithful participated, both in the church and in the square in front. Everyone had a burning candle, as proposed by the organizers of the vigil. Below we publish the full text of Bishop Ha's homily (translation from Chinese by AsiaNews).
Today, we are gathered here to pray together in memory of June 4, 1989, a day 31 years ago. Yet for us that day has not passed: we still carry it in our hearts. We do not want to merely commemorate: we cannot forget. In these 31 years we have lived many June 4s: the return of Hong Kong to the homeland took place on June 4, 1997; protesters protested against the law on art. 23 [for national security] on June 4, 2003; on June 4, 2014, just before the Umbrella Movement [Occupy Central]; on June 4 of last year, in which the anti-extradition movement broke out; and finally, the national security law of June 4, 2020.
What will become of next June 4th? What will we remember it for? What makes us gather every year on the same day to pray together? As Christians, everything we do is in response to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Today's Gospel shows us the most important commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ, namely to love God and love one's neighbor. Not only does He say it, but He shows it to us with His own life, His own death, what it truly means to love God and neighbor with all of Himself.
Let us pray together carrying these feelings within us. First of all, to commemorate the students and civilians who died in Beijing: let us pray that they will find eternal peace in the afterlife, so that justice is done. They are now dead, but why did they die? How did they die? The mothers of these young people - the Mothers of Tiananmen - expressed their humble request: to obtain justice for the 1989 Movement; launch an investigation into the case and make the truth public, and finally, publicly ask for forgiveness from the families of the victims. These requests are perhaps considered unrealistic, but faith tells us that the most important thing is to do the will of God, and His will is this request to love the Lord and neighbor, because man is created and loved by God, so that the value of man is far more important than any other institutional value: the people before the government; the truth before interests. Let us pray together for our people, our compatriots, as the students and civilians of the time did, who sacrificed themselves not for their own interests, but for the future of the country, of the people. They said: this country is our country, this people is our people, if we do not become involved, who will? If we don't do it, who else will do it? Thanks to economic reforms and openness, China has experienced real prosperity and progress; the living conditions of the people have seen an undoubted improvement. But, at the same time, many other social problems have arisen that lead us to reflect on the insufficiencies of political reforms. Unfortunately, the reforms of the political system ended with the June 4 movement. From that moment on, the reforms have been mainly economic, ignoring the political ones and the social problems of that time have dragged on until today, perhaps they are even more serious.
Some say that today's prosperity came about thanks to the solution of the Tiananmen massacre; therefore, we must stop looking back and start looking to the future. I am not overly convinced of this theory because history is full of surprises: if June 4 had not ended in such a bloody way, perhaps China would have chosen a different path of development, perhaps China would have been even more prosperous and powerful. Who can tell? However, since loving God and neighbor is the most important commandment, and man is created and loved by God, then man does not need bread alone. We pray for the nation and the people, so that we can build a society that respects human dignity, while we pursue material wealth.
This year we pray together for Hong Kong, for all of us. The approval of the national security law has further aggravated the situation in Hong Kong, making it even more critical, the path becoming increasingly difficult. What must we do? How can we do it? Freedom of expression seems to shrink more and more. Could this be the last commemoration Mass in memory of June 4th? I do not know. No matter how difficult it will be in the future, we must know that we are Christians, we are children of God, that He is always with us and walks with us, He gives us strength for our missions, continuing to love God and neighbor even in adversity.
In all these 31 years, on the night of June 4th, we have always lit a candle for people who live in the shadows, shouting out for those who have no voice, and in this way expressing our love. And if one day we too will no longer be able to speak, if we too end up in the dark, then we will share the same destiny with them, becoming one single entity and loving each other more and more.
Brothers and sisters, we must pray, ask the Lord to enlighten us, to show us the right way, give us courage so that we can become, as we heard in today's first reading from the apostle Paul to Timothy: "Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God.”
31 years is a long time. How much longer do we have to wait? How long will this trial last? Nobody knows. This is why I am very comforted by the theme of the commemoration of June 4 this year: "Do not be afraid, the Lord walks with you". The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert, Moses encouraged them with these words. We too can be encouraged and find the necessary strength from His teaching. Our commemoration is not yet in its 40th year! We must not be afraid, because Our Lord walks by our side! Let us pray that we can continue to love God and neighbor, in good and bad times. Let us pray that the fire of faith will always burn!